I found the second one several days later. This time in the pasture next to the farthest fenceline. It was midafternoon and I had just been out there a few hours before. This chick was also headless.
|3 month old pullets and cockerels: Buff Orpingtons, |
Speckled Sussex, and Silver Laced Wyandottes .
Quite a few chicken predators consume only the head and crop. Most of them, however, hunt either at night or during the day. Did that mean we had two different predators, a night hunter and a day hunter? Dan set out the live animal traps and I made sure all chickens were in the coop before closing up at night. I also changed the chickens free range area, directing them to the front pasture with the bucks.
We had already lost 7 young chicks to a rat and did not want to lose any more. Even though the chicks were now too big to be attacked by rats, we discovered that the "barn" was infested with them! I saw two in the coop when I did a night check, and Dan could hear them running in the walls.
|Speckled Sussex pullets drinking whey from cheese making.|
Our chicken coop/goat shed is an old building (as in about 85 years old) that has gone through several transformations. At some point, someone poured a concrete floor and put up paneling to turn it into a workshop. We turned it into a home for our critters and haven't had problems with rodents until this year. Now the rats had tunneled under the concrete floor and had a series of entries and exits into the walls and all around the building. Except for the chick killer we caught in a live animal trap, all the rest had deftly avoided all attempts to catch them. After searching YouTube, Dan build this.....
|YouTube inspired rat trap. I don't have the video address for you, sorry.|
A PVC pipe and elbow runs from a rat hole up to a tub of water. A strip of old towel in the pipe offers traction, and peanut better at the mouth of the elbow is the bait. The rats fall into the tub and drown. The fellow who invented this said he successfully disposes of rats on an ongoing basis.
The next morning we approached this contraption with anticipation. No joy. However, inside the chicken coop, I discovered this....
.... a newly shed snake skin.
This story is already long enough, so to shorten it up a bit, I can tell you that we never drowned a rat in the YouTube rat trap, but all the rats vacated thanks to that snake.
Dan did find the snake, a black snake, under the nest boxes. He removed it to the back of our property, and released it in the woods. If it would only catch and eat mice and rats we wouldn't have minded it being around, but they also eat eggs. He also ended up catching two possums, one in a live animal trap and one in the fig tree. They are gone now too.
Total loss from predation this year has been 9 out of 25 chicks. We're hoping that will be the end of it, but now we're entering autumn hawk migration. I reckon it all just comes with the territory.
More Problems With Predators © September 2013